What to Do When Jawline Acne Won’t Go Away

Jeff Hautala
By Jeff Hautala, Co-Founder of Exposed Skincare

If your other acne has cleared up, but your jawline acne is worse than ever, you aren’t alone. This is actually a very common problem, but luckily, it’s relatively easy to solve once you know what’s going on.

Jawline acne, like all kinds of acne, can be caused by any number of factors, from shaving and makeup to playing football or marching in the band. However, jawline acne can persist even after other acne has cleared up because it is in the “U-zone.” The more popular “T-zone” is the area of the face including the forehead and nose, and it is known for being particularly acne-prone because it produces more oil than the rest of the face. However, the U-zone can cause plenty of acne issues as well.

The jawline typically has dry skin, which can create acne troubles that are different from those on the forehead or nose.

The Relationship Between Dry Skin and Acne

The U-zone is the region of the face that includes the temples, cheeks, jawline, and chin. Unlike the T-zone, this area produces less oil rather than more, so the skin is typically dry. Although excess oil can definitely contribute to acne, not enough oil causes acne as well. There are three main causes of acne: inflammation, bacteria, and oil production. All three of these factors come together to cause acne, but oily skin typically has more acne due to excess oil, and dry skin usually has more acne due to inflammation caused by irritation.

Dry skin is more likely to become inflamed because it is more likely to be irritated by minor things, like scratching at the skin or even harsh winter air. Too much oil is a bad thing, but our skin actually benefits from a thin layer of protective oil. The oil prevents outside bacteria from getting into the pores and it provides a buffer between the skin cells and any irritants.

Without the protective layer of oil, dry skin is vulnerable to even mild irritants and as a result, dry skin is usually irritated. The skin has two main defense responses to irritation: inflammation and oil production. This reaction is typically what causes acne along the jawline.

Inflammation causes the skin to swell slightly, to prevent the irritant from spreading to the rest of the skin or invading deeper into the pores. Oil production caused by irritation is a last-minute effort to provide some protection from the irritant, but because of the inflammation, it usually gets trapped in the pores, along with any other oil, dead skin cells, or bacteria that were already on the surface of the skin. This can cause everything from blackheads to pimples.

The Top 5 Causes of Jawline Acne

Because the jawline naturally produces less oil, it is easily irritated and acne-prone. There are any number of reasons the jawline can become irritated and inflamed, but the top 5 causes of jawline acne include:

  1. Shaving
  2. Playing sports with chin straps
  3. Playing the violin
  4. Resting your head in your hands
  5. Applying the wrong skin care products

There are a few simple adjustments you can make that can decrease irritation caused by these activities, and as a result, decrease acne.

Shaving and Jawline Acne

There are several factors involved in shaving that could contribute to acne along the jawline, such as shaving cream, dull razors, or hairs that get left behind. Each of these issues could cause acne anywhere, not just along the jawline, but because it typically has dry skin, the jawline is a common place to get shaving related acne.

Shaving creams should generally be avoided if you have dry or sensitive skin, because they tend to cause irritation. The foaming agents and fragrances present in shaving creams can be irritating for some people. If you have significant acne where you shave, one potential solution could be switching to a shaving gel. Shaving gel doesn’t have any foaming chemicals, and there are plenty of fragrance-free options as well.

Another potential issue when it comes to shaving is a dull razor. Dull razors cause razor burn because instead of cutting the hair, they bend the hair back into the follicle. The body interprets this as an invader, and sets off the inflammation response, creating those red bumps. The roughness of a dull blade can also cause general irritation, leading to increased acne. This is especially true for the jawline because of its angle. It can be hard to get a clean shave along the jaw, so you may run the razor across it several times, which can definitely cause irritation if the razor is dull.

If you are using a sharp razor and a fragrance-free shaving gel but still seeing acne that seems related to shaving, you may want to try shaving in the shower. Sometimes rinsing in the sink doesn’t quite do the trick. Some sections may get missed, or the cut hairs can simply move around the skin rather than being rinsed away. Shaving in the shower allows for everything to be rinsed more thoroughly.

Acne Mechanica Along the Jawline

Another primary cause of jawline acne is friction and pressure, often caused by playing sports that require chin straps, or playing instruments like the violin. This type of acne, caused by friction and pressure, is called acne mechanica.

One common cause of acne mechanica is playing the violin because it is played while pressed against the jaw. This causes both friction and pressure, which combine to make a perfect recipe for acne. When the violin rubs against the skin, especially dry skin, it gets irritated, leading to inflammation and excess oil production. But because the violin is still pressed to the skin, the oil gets trapped in the pores and clogs them.

This also happens with the chin straps often involved in sports or marching band. Chin straps run along the jawline and create friction that irritates the skin. This causes acne in the same way as the violin.

There’s no way to prevent friction from causing irritation, but there are helpful tips for avoiding acne mechanica.

First, be sure to clean your face and your instrument or chin strap before every use. You can cleanse your face and chin straps with plain water, but most instruments require special cleaning. Be sure to look up how to clean your instrument correctly, as some can be damaged by water. Keeping both your skin and your instrument or chin strap clean beforehand can help prevent the spread of bacteria.

After every use, you should also clean your instrument or chin strap and cleanse your face. This time we recommend washing your face with a facewash containing low concentrations of salicylic acid. This will help break up any oil that got clogged in the pores, but it shouldn’t irritate the skin. At Exposed Skin Care, we offer a Facial Cleanser that contains 0.5% salicylic acid and is meant to keep skin exfoliated and clear.

Resting your head in your hands when bored or stressed could contribute to your acne.

How to Stop Touching Your Face

One of the biggest causes of acne is touching the face too much. Sometimes this comes in the form of picking or popping pimples, but we often touch our faces without even realizing it. When we’re bored, stressed, or tired, we might run our hands over our face, or rest our head in our hands. This can especially affect jawline acne, since that is typically the part of the face that rests against the palm.

Resting your head in your hands when bored or stressed could be contributing to your acne.

Even though touching the face alone isn’t enough to cause acne, even these minor interactions can make acne worse. Your hands carry a lot of bacteria, and they produce their own oils. Whenever they come into contact with your face, they transfer those bacteria and oils to your skin, and cause minor irritation.

The first step toward touching your face less is to notice when you’re doing it. One tactic is to apply a strong-smelling lotion to your hands. It helps if this is a lotion you don’t use regularly so you aren’t accustomed to the scent. This will make you more aware of when you touch your face, because you’ll get a strong whiff of the lotion.

Once you’re more aware of how often you touch your face, you can work on preventing it. Similar tactics can help with this step as well. Instead of using any strong-smelling lotion, you can use a lotion with a scent you don’t like. The unfortunate side of this solution is that you’ll be able to smell the bad scent faintly all day. Another potential solution is to paint your nails when you find yourself getting tired or stressed. It’s a good self-care activity, and you are much less likely to touch your face with wet nails.

Skin Care Products That Can Cause Jawline Acne

Although skin care products are supposed to take care of your skin, many of them could be causing a problem, especially for the jawline and the rest of the U-zone. Skin in the U-zone is typically drier than skin elsewhere, so products that work well for your forehead or nose can sometimes cause issues for your chin or jawline. The two products most commonly at fault are foundation and acne treatment products.

Makeup isn’t inherently a problem for acne, but using the wrong kind of foundation or forgetting to remove makeup definitely contributes to acne. Because of the angle of the jawline, it’s easy to forget to remove makeup there. Before makeup is applied, your jawline acne is clearly visible, even at an angle, but once makeup is applied, it’s easier to forget acne is there.

When you go to remove makeup at night, you could forget to remove the foundation applied to the jawline. Makeup can clog pores if it sets on the skin too long, so it’s important to gently remove it every night.

Even if you remove your makeup completely, it can still lead to acne if you’re using the wrong kind. This is especially true of foundation. Before buying, check for labels like “non-comedogenic,” “non-pore-clogging,” or “oil-free.” Those makeups are far less likely to clog pores and cause acne.

It’s counterintuitive, but acne treatment products can also lead to more acne along the jawline and in the U-zone. Many acne products use similar active ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, but they use these ingredients in very different concentrations. Some big companies use irresponsibly high concentrations to produce immediate results, but they quickly dry out and irritate the skin, leading to even more acne.

The Best Products to Reduce Jawline Acne

If acne products can’t even get rid of jawline acne, what can? The truth is, plenty of acne products can help treat acne along the jawline, you just need to know what kind to look for. The best treatment is gentle, consistent acne treatment and a water-based moisturizer.

The most important step in treating any kind of acne is to do your full skin care routine every day. It’s also important to use the kind of products that are gentle with the skin but tough on acne. Our best recommendation is to find products that combine acne-fighting ingredients at low concentrations. For instance, salicylic acid is available in concentrations anywhere from 0.5% to 3%, or potentially even higher with a prescription. It can be tempting to start out with the highest concentration, but this is almost guaranteed to dry out and irritate your skin, which will cause more acne. It’s best to start with the lowest concentration and work your way up.

For acne in the U-zone or along the jawline specifically, we also recommend a moisturizer. Many people with acne avoid moisturizer because they’re afraid of clogging their pores, but this is one of the most important steps, especially for acne in the U-zone. It’s fairly simple to find a moisturizer that won’t clog pores too. All you have to do is look for one that is water-based, rather than oil-based or alcohol-based.

What to Do When Jawline Acne Won’t Go Away
A good moisturizer is the key to keeping the jawline acne-free

The best way to treat acne along the jawline without drying out the skin is with Exposed Skin Care’s Expanded Kit. Our kits include everything you need to keep skin clear and healthy. We recommend the Expanded Kit for dry skin because it includes our Moisture Complex, a water-based moisturizer that contains vitamin E, green tea extract, and other soothing ingredients to keep skin hydrated. Jawline acne can be stubborn, but with Exposed Skin Care, it doesn’t have to be permanent.